knowledge, skills, abilities

The majority of government job announcements will require applicants to complete a KSA questionnaire. The acronym stands for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities. KSAs for federal jobs collect information from applicants about their experiences that are directly related to the job.

Knowing how to write KSA for federal jobs will greatly improve your chances of being asked to a job interview. Hiring managers consider the responses on KSAs as closely as resumes.

The KSA government jobs questionnaire essentially serves as a preliminary job interview in written form. It supplements your resume although it’s acceptable to repeat information on a KSA that’s already present on your resume.

Follow these basic steps to write answers for your KSA:

  1. List important keywords from the job announcement that pertain to requirements and qualifications. You’ll want to incorporate these keywords in your KSA.
  2. Identify factors related to job requirements within the job announcement. Check for “special selective factors” or “special placement factors” necessary to qualify for the job at all. Your KSA must address these special factors to gain an interview.
  3. Spend some time thinking about all of your experience and skills. Pertinent experience, even from unpaid volunteer activities, counts as well as work history.
  4. Write your responses offline and spend time proofreading your answers. Apply the same effort when writing KSAs for government jobs as you did with your resume.

CCAR Method for Writing KSA

You’ll write from a first-person perspective. Your narrative should explain how you learned your knowledge and applied it to overcome challenges.

As for how to complete the KSA for a federal job, the CCAR method offers a good strategy. CCAR directs you to frame your responses around context, challenges, actions, and results.

Examples of KSAs for federal jobs typically include these 4 elements. They work well to build responses that effectively describe your experience.

Locate the CCAR elements in this example statement for a fish biologist job:

As a biologist for the State Wildlife Agency, I monitored populations of 12 sport fish species in inland waters. Feedback from anglers suggested that populations were dipping in 4 key species. To improve the accuracy of my data, I gained authorization from my director to add more sampling locations. I additionally surveyed anglers at 3 of the area’s most popular fishing lakes over 6 months. The additional data enabled the adjustment of catch limits and the recovery of the affected fish populations in 5 years.


To get the best idea of how to approach a KSA, look for KSAs for federal jobs examples related to your field.

Federal KSA Template

After you isolate the CCAR elements for your experience, apply them to the factors that you found in the job announcement. This KSA template will help you organize the information and draft strong answers.

What is KSA?

Although the terms Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities might appear straightforward, it’s good to know their specific meanings. Government job recruiters evaluate your KSAs according to specific definitions.

  • KNOWLEDGE encompasses formal bodies of knowledge. These often take the form of procedural manuals, rules, and regulations. Understanding the symbols and syntax of a computer programming language represents knowledge.
  • SKILL refers to your ability to manipulate information or things. Your action upon the information or things could be mental, verbal, or manual. For example, knowing how to run an X-ray machine is a skill.
  • ABILITY describes your physical or mental capacity to perform a task. To show ability within KSA responses, explain how you used equipment or skills to complete assignments. An example of an ability could be your experience controlling air traffic.

KSA Dos and Don’ts

The stakes are high when you complete a KSA for a job application. You don’t want to disqualify yourself with mistakes that you could have easily avoided.

Do:
  • Do address all job requirements, particularly special factors.
  • Do explain all experience pertinent to the job’s KSA, even volunteer experience.
  • Do choose strong verbs.
  • Do mention all relevant awards and WHY you won them.
  • Do organize your experience logically, usually chronologically.
  • Do be specific about your education and credentials. Name schools and course titles.
  • Do use complete sentences. This is a narrative essay.
  • Do provide 2 to 3 examples of experience within each response.
Do not:
  • Don’t use bullet lists.
  • Don’t exaggerate or mislead.
  • Don’t copy portions of the job announcement.
  • Don’t be vague. Use specific examples that illustrate your qualifications.
  • Don’t mention work done by other people. The KSA is about you.
  • Don’t refer the reader to your resume.
  • Don’t discount your accomplishments.
  • Don’t hide your talents. Make them immediately apparent throughout your narrative.
  • Don’t use acronyms.

How Long Should KSA Answers Be?

In general, each KSA response should be at least half a printed page. Ideally, you would fill an entire page, but the depth of requirements varies for different jobs. Highly complex positions, however, would call for complete 1-page answers.

At times, you might exceed 1 page if you have in-depth experience, but you should avoid giving bloated answers. Job recruiters have many applications to review. You don’t want to overload them with unnecessarily long essays.

The number of KSAs that you need to complete varies as well. Some jobs might only have a single KSA while others require that you fill out 5 or 6 KSA questionnaires.

Final Word

Getting a government job is admittedly an arduous process. Writing KSAs for multiple job applications can feel very demanding, especially if you feel like you’re repeating your resume.

Keep yourself motivated by the fact that the KSA is in many ways a test. A well-written KSA shows that you’re willing to put in the necessary work to pursue your job goals. Your chances of advancing your career will increase per the quality of your KSA.

professional resume writerJim Madson

Jim is an executive resume writer who stays abreast of the newest trends in the employment industry. He develops high-performance resumes to build a successful career.

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